Saturday Morning Reading #50

Here’s your (slightly cynical) Saturday Morning Reading…
1. Making International Development Research and Assistance Work | Ken Opalo – An Africanist Perspective
I had this thought just the other day – if governments had to actively say yes to any donor project, rather than not say no, national priorities would stand a better chance of being funded as opposed to half the government working to keep donors happy. People working for donors may be surprised by how much of some governments’ activity/attention is dictated by the international community.
“Imagine for a second how different IMF or World Bank interventions would be if all their agreements with developing countries (say above a prescribed dollar amount) were subject to ratification by host-country legislatures. The process would be messy, yes (looking at you, Greece*). But I’d argue that finance ministers would get much better deals for their people — in no small part on account of greater levels of intra-elite accountability in the management of aid resources.
The irony of development research and practice is that we talk a lot about the importance of institutions, but then turn around and come up with ideas to circumvent them (and their elite membership) at every opportunity.”
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This is the best one so far. Development satire always welcome.
“None of us knows how to monitor what we’re doing or – even harder – evaluate if a project achieves anything. Usually we just count up how much money we’ve spent.

The M&E guy was supposed to do it, but then he said he had tonsillitis – an obvious lie to get out of working over the holidays. I mean, his doctor note said he needed to recover on Zanzibar. As if!

So I copy-pasted the M&E plan of that agriculture project you funded last year. Everywhere the plan said “chickpea” I changed that to “child”.”
 
“I know there are a lot of run-on sentences. That’s because the pedants in HQ think that grammar is kudzu. Their tracked changes, once merged, were blinding. Microsoft actually ran out of colours to express them all. Even worse were the comment boxes, wherein each reviewer argued – hysterically! – that her/his input was essential enough to make you, the donor, welcome a narrative that exceeds your page limit by a good 800%.”
 
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3, The pope v the UN: who will save the world first? | Global Development Professionals Network
Speaking of committees and sprawling documents…
 
“The encyclical is visionary. It is bold, uncompromising and radical, where the SDGs are staid, timid and mired in a business-as-usual mentality.”
 
“The SDGs are right to embrace a wide range of issues […] But they have confused thoroughness with holism, lists with patterns. It’s a mistake born of outdated thinking. The pope, by contrast, has struck at the systemic nature of the issue.”
 
“The SDGs frame the problems of global poverty and inequality as things that just exist, as if they have no cause. “Every country is primarily responsible for its own development outcomes,” the document insists. Apparently colonialism, slavery, resource theft, debt, structural adjustment and financial crises don’t have anything to do with it. Poverty and ecological crisis don’t just exist, they are caused – by institutions with specific interests. Unlike the SDGs, the pope dares to cast blame.”
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On David Miliband and Ravi Gurumurthy’s article in Foreign Affairs on how the aid system needs to change:
 
“It’s kind of amazing that “be more efficient”, “stop doing things that don’t work” and “do the things that do work” are all revolutionary statements in aid. Good for them for finally pushing this.
I will push back at Miliband and Gurumurthy in one place, though. It comes down to what I see as a humanitarian blind spot: the perverse incentives they help create, and the silence on the crimes that result.”
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